aText: aTerrific text expaaander at aGreat price

A text expander will make your Mac life so much easier. And if you're coding, even more so much easier. aText is terrific, and it's a serious bargain. Curious? Allow me to expand on that.

If you've heard of text expanders, you've probably heard of… well, TextExpander. (They've definitely got the name thing going for them.) It's arguably the most well-known, and at $34.99, arguably the most expensive. I used it for many years and it's been great. But when TE went from version 2 to 3, the upgrade cost $15. That felt high relative to my level of use, so I decided to look around. And I'm glad I did.

What is a text expander?

A text expander app sits quietly in the background, and when you type a pre-defined abbreviation, it is replaced with expanded content.

For example, you might define the shortcut ddate to insert the current date. Or ,add to insert your address. Or ,sig for an email signature.

You'll be surprised at the little ways it's useful. How often do you type your email address into forms? Let's say yours is Define the shortcut ,jj and you're done.

You may not think you type enough repetitive or complicated things to need one. And for $34.99, you may be right. But what if I told you that you could get the features of an expensive text expander for only five dollars? NOW how much would you pay?

Getting started with aText

When I opened aText for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it had already imported all of my snippets from TextExpander. So I was up and running instantly. A nice touch. aText can import snippets from other apps too, as well as CSV files.

Here's a look at the main window.


Defining snippets

The basic thing you'll do in aText is define your snippets, and it's simple. Just click New, type your abbreviation, and type your text.


The default is plain text, which is fine for most uses since it will paste into your document in the font you're typing in. But you're not limited -- your content can include formatted text and even images.


There's a nice format bar, including line spacing and lists, and even styles.


You can insert dynamic data like the date and time, with a lot of options.


You can define a snippet that will expand with your cursor in a specific place.


And hey, speaking of the <img> tag…

It's ggreat for ccoding

aText comes with predefined snippets for HTML and Javascript. It does not, however, include snippets for CSS. TextExpander had a free add-on group of CSS snippets.

Organizing snippets

What's the point of defining a million snippets, if you just have a big jumble of a million snippets? aText lets you organize snippets into groups.


I wish a little bit that you could rearrange these; they just appear in the order you create them. But, that doesn't affect usability, it's just a little inconvenient when you're sorting/organizing in the main window.

aText includes several predefined groups. In addition to HTML and Javascript, there are groups for symbols and two autocorrect dictionaries, including the popular TidBITS.


Teaching your snippets to behave

aText gives you control over how snippets are inserted. You do this at the Group level -- defining the behavior for all the snippets in that group.


Normally you'll want it to recognize your abbreviation after a whitespace. But there are a few options.


You can enable aText everywhere, or specifically include or exclude applications.


aText options

Here's a look at aText's preferences.


The General tab has your normal basic stuff. You can choose from 15 feedback sounds like Frog, Funk, and Purr, or keep it simple. (Now that I think of it, Funk Snippet might be a good name for my lounge band.) aText can live in your menu bar, for drop-down access to all of your groups and snippets.

The Auto-Correction tab isn't what its icon implies -- it only has auto-capping and double capitals. But you get plenty of autocorrect with the snippet groups. You can define a Backup location, and Sync your data to Dropbox and iCloud.

You can define Hotkeys for several of aText's functions. I really like this checkbox interface.


Final thoughts

I like aText a lot. It does everything I need, and you can't beat these features for the price. I would miss the CSS snippets if I didn't already have them from TE; maybe that can be added in the future. If you haven't used a text expander yet, or are balking at an expensive upgrade, take aLook at aText. For five bucks, you can't go wrong.

aText for Mac by Tran Ky Nam Software

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